This past summer, I was fortunate to cover the Heavy Montreal festival for Canadian Musician magazine. The ensuing piece, which you can read here, contains a few anecdotes, but here's a personal one I left out.
Some bands you see because you dig the music, others because they're legends and you want bragging rights. Then there's bands whose appearance just feels different: it's a happening, to borrow a phrase from the 60s. That's how I felt about Alexisonfire at Heavy Montreal.
I'd seen them before, several times, but that was years ago. This time, there was something special in the air. The return of one of heavy music's best voices in Dallas Green, whose desire to make (gorgeous) pop rock under the name City & Colour had effectively broken up the band five years ago. I love that band, but that voice just fits perfectly when complimented by George Pettit's screams distorted guitars.
As they launched into Accidents, the mosh pit went nuts. I was up near the front, as my girlfriend, an Alexis superfan if there ever was one, would not have been happy unless she was as close to being on the stage itself as possible.
“This is awesome,” I thought. That sentiment lasted pretty much to the end of the song. As Boiled Frogs came up next (my personal favourite song of theirs), and I got shoved in the back by a sweaty teenager, I quickly realized I was becoming miserable.
When I got a text from a fellow friend with a VIP pass informing me of of a blocked off area for such elites as ourselves at the front of the stage, I quickly shoved my way there and enjoyed the rest of the (excellent) set in relative tranquility. No more pushing and shoving to hold precious ground for this old fart.
The body isn't willing anymore, but the spirit is still there (as I write this, it seems Neil Peart is agreeing with me, announcing his retirement from touring with Rush due to the physical toll of playing drums). If I'm listening to music on any given day, odds are it's at least influenced by punk, metal or hard rock. It just seems for people in my age bracket, this is seen as a bit weird. Music fandom is for everyone, but the scope is limited once you're no longer in the age where anger is a viable artistic statement. Osheaga is acceptable. Heavy is borderline psychotic.
It's hard to explain why I still love this music. I'm not an angry person. I don't even necessarily identify with angry lyrics. There's just something about loud guitars, double bass rhythms and screaming that I love. It energizes me. It's fun and silly and full of life. But it's definitely not cool and probably hasn't been since nu-metal regressed hard rock to the 80s, intellectually.
This is one of those topics I find myself unable to not write about – it was something I addressed in one of the first features I ever published, almost six years ago.
When I look at my album collection, I wonder what it says about me and why I'm drawn to this music. I wonder why my brother and his friends were drawn to pap like Dave Matthews Band and Guster and I was obsessing over Tool.
A puzzle for the ages. But if there's one thing I know, it's that while loving the music doesn't change, the love of the mosh pit? That don't last into your 30s.